Monday, January 21, 2013

History of Psychology

            One cannot understand the history of psychology appropriately without knowing something of the history of philosophy (Goodwin, 2008). In understanding the history of philosophy one can determine that philosophers have already addressed the important issues that concern modern psychologists (Goodwin, 2008). Philosophers, such as John Locke, David Hume, and Wilhelm Wundt have contributed to the discipline of psychology. For instance, John Locke, and David Hume are two philosophers related to psychology’s beginnings as a formal discipline. Wilhelm Wundt was a major philosopher in a western tradition that was a primary contributor to psychology’s beginnings as a formal discipline. Several other philosophers contributed to the psychology’s beginnings as a formal discipline as well. In order for one to fully understanding psychology, one needs to explore its origins and history during the 19th century.
John Locke
            John Locke was a British philosopher considered the founder of the British empiricism movement (Uzgalis, 2012). During Locke’s life he witnessed and experienced several events that affected and influenced his life. Goodwin (2008), “out of these experiences, he developed a liberal political philosophy based on tolerance of dissent and the right of the people to determine how they would lead both their worldly and their more spiritual lives, and in particular, how they would be governed” (p. 38). Locke wrote several influential books, such as the four books of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. These four books were explanations of how Locke viewed the acquirement of knowledge and how humans find a way to understand the world, therefore Locke believed that humans were not born with innate ideas (Goodwin, 2008).
            Locke also expressed his beliefs that human experiences, such as thoughts, sensations, feelings, and images are physical processes that occurred in the nervous system and brain (monism). Monism is the belief that the mind, and the body are the same. Locke also wrote Some Thoughts Concerning Education, which detailed how the thinking of an empiricist may be applied to every aspect of a child’s education (Goodwin, 2008). Locke believed a child was born as a blank slate and learned through experiences. Locke contributed to psychology through his books and the concepts he expressed in them (Goodwin, 2008).
David Hume
            David Hume was a British philosopher, essayist, and historian. Hume was a logical thinker, one who rejected the idea of religion contributing to or affecting psychology in any way, and thought that one should think logically instead of relying on religion. Morris (2009), “for Hume, all the materials of thinking — perceptions — are derived either from sensation, such as outward sentiment or from reflection, such as inward sentiment” (p. 1). Hume delved more on this and other ideas in several books of work, such as A Treatise of Human Nature, the Enquiries concerning Human Understanding, Principles of Morals, and Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Through his books and work Hume also proposed three laws of association, which were resemblance, contiguity, and cause/effect (Goodwin, 2008).
            Morris (2009), “today, philosophers recognize Hume as a precursor of contemporary cognitive science, as well as one of the most thoroughgoing exponents of philosophical naturalism” (p. 1). Hume contributed to psychology as a discipline through his search for causes of behavior, which still influences modern psychologists to continue Hume’s search.
Wilhelm Wundt
            Wilhelm Wundt was a philosopher and father of experimental psychology. Wundt’s influence on the development of psychology as a discipline was enormous as he made arguments for a non-reductionist account of consciousness’ legitimacy, which offered resources and challenges to both philosophy and contemporary psychology (Kim, 2006). Wundt's influence over Edward B. Tichener, a former student influenced him formally to establish structuralism. Wundt also wrote books, such as the Principles of Physiological Psychology, which enabled the establishment of experimental procedures to occur in psychological research (Kim, 2006). Psychology gained a disciplinary identity distinctive from philosophy because of Wundt and his students who developed the empirical methodologies (Kim, 2006).
            The empirical methodologies’ development occurred because of Wundt’s repulsion for the founders of neo-Kantianism, Phenomenology, and Pragmatism. Along with the development of the empirical methodologies, which led the way for psychology to gain its disciplinary identity, Wundt contributed more to this disciplinary identity by opening the first psychological lab in 1879 at University of Leipzig. These two developments stand alone as undeniable accomplishments that Wundt contributed to the discipline of psychology.
Development of the Science of Psychology
            In the 19th century, undoubtedly the most significant period in the development of the science of psychology occurred when Wilhelm Wundt founded the experimental study of self-conscious in a laboratory. This was the first time a laboratory’s exclusive purpose was for psychological research (Academic Writing Tips, 2011). Another development in psychology occurred during this century when Ivan Pavlov performed his classical conditioning experiments, which immensely influenced psychology, in particular the development of behaviorism (Academic Writing Tips, 2011). Several psychologists used Pavlov's conditional reflex work toward the study of conditioning as a form of learning, and his experimental methods contributed to psychology’s move toward objective measurements of behavior, away from subjective and introspection assessments of behavior (Cherry, 2012).
            William James, during this century established the first American psychology laboratory and wrote The Principles of Psychology, and a condensed version titled Psychology: The Briefer Course. He also proposed the James-Lange theory of emotion, which proposes that an event triggers a physiological reaction, which one can therefore interpret (Cherry, 2012). According to Academic Writing Tips (2011), “after experimental psychology, other areas of specialization such as scientific pedagogy appeared in the early 1880s led by G. Stanley Hall and the educational theory by John Dewey was another milestone in the same era” (p. 1). Hall also established at Johns Hopkins University the first experimental psychology laboratory, and in 1892, founded the American Psychological Association (APA).  
            In the 1890s James Cattell built the first psychological clinic, which incorporated anthropometric methods used in testing client’s mental conditioning (Academic Writing Tips, 2011). In 1896 at the University of Pennsylvania Lightner Witmer, father of clinical psychology opened the first psychological clinic for patients. At this moment Witmer’s focus shifted from experimental work toward practical applications of his findings (Discovering Psychology, 2012). Toward the end of this century Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis, which was a new approach to studying the mind (Academic Writing Tips, 2011). Wundt, Pavlov, James, Hall, Dewey, Cattell, Witmer, and Freud contributed to and influenced the development of the science of psychology.  
            In the 19th century, several contributions by philosophers and psychologist contributed to the development of the science of psychology, and continue to influence and advance the field still to this day. 
Uzgalis, W. (2012). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Morris, W.E. (2009). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. . Retrieved from
Kim, A. (2006). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
Academic Writing Tips. (2011). History of Modern Psychology. Retrieved from
Cherry, K. (2012). Psychology. Retrieved from
Discovering Psychology. (2012). Retrieved from

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